Dan Ellsey uses Hyperscore music software and a custom-tuned musical "hyperinstrument" to write, perform and conduct his music, and to help others learn how to compose.

Why you should listen

A resident of Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts, Dan Ellsey has cerebral palsy and does not walk or speak. He does, however, write and play his own music, and mentor others, through a groundbreaking music system developed by MIT's Tod Machover and his team, including grad student Adam Boulanger. Working closely with this team, Ellsey helped to develop and fine-tune a head-mounted interface, tweaked to respond to his movements, that allows him to compose music and to conduct nuanced performances of his work. Hyperscore software helps Ellsey notate his musical ideas.

Ellsey's work has been performed at MIT, on the radio and at workshops around the Boston area. The Lowell Symphony Orchestra performed his piece "Our Musically" at a 2004 concert for residents of Tewksbury -- many of whom count Ellsey as a mentor in their own musical education.

What others say

“When everybody sees Dan on stage performing this piece, people will see who Dan Ellsey is and will understand him as a person in a way that -- there's just no other way that that would be possible.” — Tod Machover

Dan Ellsey’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Dan Ellsey


TEDTalks' own guitar heroes

August 3, 2008

TEDTalks fan Stefan Kreitmayer was watching Tod Machover — whose lab at MIT developed the tech behind Guitar Hero — when he noticed an interesting coincidence and took a screenshot. Wondering what to watch next? How about these guitar heroes: (Links for these talks: Craig Venter … Freeman Dyson … Kwabena Boahen … the Theme […]

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Playing the music in your head: Tod Machover & Dan Ellsey on TED.com

April 15, 2008

Tod Machover of MIT’s Media Lab invented the musical technology behind Guitar Hero, and here he talks about what’s coming next. Listen for some brand-new ways to interface with music — to play it, compose it, enjoy it. Machover then introduces Dan Ellsey, a composer with cerebral palsy who uses some new tools to write […]

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